Mrs Amira Husain Alam

: Social worker

: SW37515

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 15/06/2017 End: 12:00 15/06/2017

: The Angel Hotel, Castle St, Cardiff, CF10 1SZ

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Struck off

Allegation

The following allegation was considered by a panel of the GSCC Conduct Committee at the substantive hearing on 11-13 July 2011:

Whilst employed by North Somerset Council as a Supervising Social Worker in the Fostering Support Team and from April 2009 to 8 April 2010.

1. In relation to Child A, a “Looked After” child, for whom you were acting as the allocated Social Worker, you:

a. Arranged for an official interpreter, Sayed Shah, to make an unauthorised visit to the placement order home;

b. Arranged for gifts to be taken to the placement home by the interpreter Sayed Shah;

c. Gave Child A, a ‘Next’ Jumper, bought with your own money;

d. Did not claim the cost of the jumper from North Somerset Council;

e. Gave child A £20 in cash from your own money;

f. Did not claim this amount from North Somerset Council;

g. Made arrangements with child A to remove him from the placement home on 1 April 2010 so that he could spend that night and the following weekend at your address;

h. Informed the Foster Carer to remove child A from the placement home on 1 April, so that he could spend that night and the following weekend at your home address;

i.Informed the Foster Carer that your proposed removal of child A from the placement home on 1 April 2010 was, or would be authorized;

j. Did not obtain authorization for the removal of child A from the placement home on 1 April 2010;

k. Did not record any of the above contacts or arrangements in the case file of child A, either in paper format or electronically on the computer system ICS;

2. In relation to 1a), b), c), e), g), h) your conduct was inappropriate.

3. In relation to 1i) your conduct was:

a. Misleading

b. Dishonest.

4. In relation to child A, as the allocated Social Worker holding the case, you;

a. Did not complete any case recording on child A’s paper case file;

b. Did not complete any case recording on the computer system ICS, with the exception of a single email dated 10 March 2010.

c. Did not return to North Somerset Council confidential records held by you in relation to child A, when required to do so.

5. In relation to family A, for whom you were the supervising social worker, you:

a. Did not complete any case recording on family A’s paper case file.

b. Did not complete any case recording on the computer system ICS, with the exception of two records dated 27 October 2009 and 4 January 2010.

6. In relation to family B, for whom you were the supervising social worker, you:

a. Did not complete any case recording on family b’s paper case file;

b. Did not complete any case recording on the computer system ICS, with the exception of three records dated 18 and 19 March 2010.

7. In relation to families C,D,E,F,H,I,J,K,L and M, for whom you were the supervising social worker, you:

a) Did not complete any case recording on the family’s paper case file;

b) Did not complete any case recording on the computer system ICS.

8. In relation to families B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,M you did not, as required of you as the Supervising Social Worker, complete Annual Review Reports to be made available to the Fostering Panel.

9. In relation to families A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,M you did not return to North Somerset Council confidential records held by you in relation to those families, when required to do so.

10. Throughout the course of your employment by North Somerset Council you:

a) Were suffering from health difficulties;

b) These health difficulties affected your ability to carry out your duties/work competently and safely, and you;

c) Failed to bring these personal difficulties to the attention of your employer or appropriate authority.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Proof of Service


1. Notice of this hearing was sent by first class post to the Registrant at her registered address on 16 May 2017. Rule 3 of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 permits the service of hearing notices by post. The Panel was satisfied that Notice of the hearing had been properly served on the Registrant.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

2. The Panel considered the application that the hearing should proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

3. On 16 May 2017, and following the previous review hearing, the HCPC wrote to the Registrant to advise her that a review hearing would be held on 15 June 2017 at the Angel Hotel in Cardiff.  In an email sent by the HCPC to the Registrant on 5 June 2017 the Registrant was told that the Review Hearing would be held in London. That was an error. It had always been planned that the hearing would be in Cardiff

4. The Registrant sent an email to the HCPC dated 6 June 2017 in which she made two main points:

(i) she thought any review hearing would take place 3 months after the previous review hearing, and
(ii) she had not expected to have to travel to London.

5. She asked that the situation be checked and further asked for the next review to take place in September in Cardiff.

6. On 7 June 2017, the HCPC wrote to the Registrant to correct the previous error and to confirm that the hearing would take place on 15 June 2017 at this venue in Cardiff.

7. Mr Demissie asked that the hearing continue in the absence of the Registrant. She had clearly been notified of today’s hearing. There had been no response from the Registrant regarding the Conditions of Practice Order that had been made over 3 years ago.

8. The Panel took into account the HCPC Practice Note “Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant”. There had been an error on the part of the HCPC in a letter sent on 5 June 2017 as to the venue for the hearing but that had been quickly corrected. The Panel was satisfied on the basis of all of the correspondence issued by the HCPC that the Registrant must have been aware that today’s hearing would be taking place in Cardiff. The Panel did not accept that the Registrant could reasonably have understood, on the basis of all the correspondence that the review hearing would take place three months after 3 May 2017, particularly given that a definite review date had been provided in the HCPC letter dated 25 May 2017 and a copy of their decision was attached thereto.

9. In all the circumstances, the Panel believe that the Registrant has voluntarily absented herself from the hearing. This hearing has to take place within statutory time periods. The Panel has to strike the correct balance between the public interest in regulatory control and the interests of the Registrant. In all the circumstances the Panel was satisfied that the fair and proper course was to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

10. The Panel takes no adverse inference against the Registrant by her non-attendance.

Application for hearing to be held in private


11. Mr Demissie asked that at least part of the hearing be heard in private because he would need to refer to aspects of the Registrant’s medical condition. The Panel agreed with that application to protect the private life interests of the Registrant.

Background


The original Order made by the GSCC on 13 July 2011


12. The detail of the allegation dealt with by the GSCC is shown above and it provides a summary of the nature of the concerns held as to the professional practice of the Registrant in 2011. The GSCC found that the Registrant had been dishonest in giving false information to a foster parent, had conducted herself inappropriately in that she arranged for a child client to stay with her at her private address and she failed to keep proper practice records and to return her own notes to a local authority. The GSCC Panel was satisfied that the actions of the Registrant amounted to misconduct. Further, after consideration of medical advice, the medical condition of the Registrant did not substantially contribute to the misconduct.


13. In making the decision that suspension was the appropriate sanction the GSCC noted that the actions of the Registrant amounted to dishonesty and “a serious failure to keep very important and confidential records, and more importantly to return them”. The GSCC accepted, in mitigation, there had been serious management failures and that the Registrant was suffering from an illness of long standing.


The review hearing on 4 July 2013


14. This hearing proceeded in the absence of the Registrant who attended the hearing venue after the hearing had concluded.  The Reviewing Panel took into account that the Registrant had committed serious misconduct over a period of a year and, further, that there had been little participation by the Registrant in the review process being conducted by the HCPC.  In the absence of the Registrant there was no information before the Reviewing Panel as to what the Registrant had been doing during the period of suspension in the sense of work, training or taking steps to address the past failures. Against that background, the Reviewing Panel found that the fitness to practice of the Registrant remained impaired and that some form of continuing restriction on practice was required. The Reviewing Panel decided the appropriate order was one of further suspension for one year.


The review hearing on 6 June 2014


15. The Registrant attended this hearing and explained there had been some kind of mix-up as to the start time of the previous review hearing.  She provided to the Panel documentary evidence of courses she had recently undertaken. She told the Panel that she was well known in the community, individuals frequently turned to her for advice and she had been mentoring and coaching within the Asian community in areas where she had relevant knowledge. She said she had prepared submissions for the Welsh Assembly on issues relating to educational needs and voting rights. She had been providing guidance within her community on issues of divorce, safeguarding, fostering and adoption matters and guidance to families that have had children taken into the care system.


16. She maintained that she had assisted students within her local Asian community generally in connection with linguistic and cultural differences.  She said that having had a troubled and complex life from which she had learnt and taken strength, she now felt great compassion and empathy for others who found themselves in adversity. She believed she was someone who learnt from her mistakes and had learnt from the events that had led to her referral to the GSCC. She stated that she wished to be able to return to her profession at some point and use her skills and knowledge within the area of fostering and adoption albeit on a part time basis to accommodate her health issues.


17. The Panel then sitting had no doubt about the Registrant’s passion for her career and her desire to return to practice and help others. However, the Panel was concerned that the Registrant had lost some of her knowledge and skills and had not undertaken relevant professional courses or reading whilst having been out of practice.  In addition, although the Registrant had taken steps to gain some insight into her previous behaviour and was addressing her medical conditions, the Panel took the view that further documentary evidence was required to support the continuing progress.


18.  Against that background the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remained impaired. However, the Panel was satisfied that a Conditions of Practice Order could be fashioned so that there would be adequate protection of service users. The Panel commented that any future reviewing Panel would be assisted by receiving from the Registrant a reflective diary recording the ways in which the Registrant had learnt from her experience of the GSCC and HCPC proceedings and how any such lessons had been applied to her and her practice, together with medical evidence from her medical professionals and practitioners of her improved and sustained health. The Registrant was also asked to provide her copy of an independent medical report that had been commissioned during the GSCC proceedings.

The Review Hearing on 3 May 2017


19. The Registrant did not attend this hearing. The day before the hearing she replied by email for an adjournment on the basis of ill-health. The Panel accepted the Registrant was not well enough to participate in the proceedings but also took into account that the existing order would expire on 6 June 2017.   The Panel took into account that there may not be sufficient time to reschedule the review hearing before its expiry and concluded that the proper course was to refuse to adjourn and extend the Conditions of Practice Order for a period of three months. That would allow the HCPTS time to reschedule the hearing and allow the Registrant an opportunity to attend. That decision was taken without considering the merits of the current Order.

Decision


20. The task for this Panel is to assess whether the Registrant’s fitness to practice remains impaired. In making that assessment the Panel has taken into account the HCPC Policy Document: “Fitness to Practice – the HCPC’s approach” and the HCPC “Indicative Sanctions Policy”. The purpose of these proceedings is not to punish the Registrant but to take such proportionate action as may be necessary to:

(i) protect members of the public
(ii) maintain confidence in the Social Worker profession, and
(iii) maintain confidence in this regulatory process.

21. The Panel takes into account the findings and conclusions of the GSCC. The Registrant committed dishonesty. She committed a serious failure to keep confidential records and serious management failings. The Panel accepts that professionals who fail to maintain professional standards can remediate or improve their practice often through reflection and further training. The Panel takes into account the detailed Conditions of Practice Order first imposed on the Registrant in June 2014. The Panel recognise that the Registrant may not have been able to find work as a Social Worker, and therefore would not be able to formulate a personal development plan. She has, however, not provided the hearing with any update or information of her current professional activities. Furthermore, the advice given at previous hearings to provide a reflective diary and her copy of an independent medical report has not been complied with.

22. The Panel is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the Registrant has not worked as a Social Worker for almost 6 years or longer. She has not engaged meaningfully with this regulatory process. In particular, there has been no action taken by her in compliance with the Conditions of Practice which were fixed 3 years ago.

23. In the absence of real engagement by the Registrant and in the absence of meaningful compliance with previous conditions the Panel is satisfied that the fitness to practice of the Registrant remains impaired.

24. It is not appropriate to make no order. The public would be at risk. A further Conditions of Practice Order is not appropriate because the Registrant has not provided meaningful engagement in connection with the previous conditions.

25. The Panel has considered a Suspension Order. Such an order may be appropriate where the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated and, thus, striking off is not merited. Given the lack of real engagement and lack of evidence of insight into past failings over the past 6 years the Panel is satisfied there is a real likelihood that the previous serious misconduct would be repeated. The Panel has concluded a Suspension Order is not appropriate.

26. The Panel is satisfied that the evidence suggests that the Registrant will be unable to resolve or remedy her past failings because she has not provided evidence of having done so over the last 6 years. On that basis the Panel has concluded that striking off is the appropriate and proportionate option.

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mrs Amira Husain Alam from the Register on expiry of the current Order.


This Order will apply from 6 September 2017.

Notes

 

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mrs Amira Husain Alam

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
15/06/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
03/05/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
06/06/2014 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
04/07/2013 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended